Record after week 4: 48-13 (29-30-2 ATS)
12 pm ET
(2) Ohio State (4-0) at Illinois (2-1) (+17)
I have no idea why I’m picking this game. Illinois is going to get destroyed, and it will be incredibly uninteresting. Sorry, Illini fans, but the UI football team sucks. They’re going to produce a few NFL players because Ron Zook can recruit. But they’re sure as hell not going to win a ton of games because, well, this is Ron Zook we’re talking about.
Terrelle Pryor seems to have figured things out. But isn’t his finally being good this year after one offseason of being LeBron’s friend kind of a red flag? I don’t want to be a dick, but it’s not like Jim Tressel’s offense was asking him to do very much his first two years in Columbus, and he still sucked and dragged the team with him.
So what changed? Why is he suddenly a juggernaut on the ground and in the air when he’s doing essentially the same things as before? Did it really take two straight years of coaching to get Pryor to not throw into double coverage AND for Tressel to figure out that Pryor should run more? There’s something weird going on behind the scenes in Columbus. Something is going to go wrong for this team in conference play, and it’s going to expose several thus-far-hidden weaknesses of this Ohio State team.
Other than the Miami win (an equally flawed team comparable to Virginia Tech), OSU has played and beaten Marshall, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan. Not exactly a murderer’s row. And where is the criticism similar to what Boise State gets? Nowhere. But hey, at least OSU can win the MAC now.
Pick: Ohio State
Kentucky (3-1) at Mississippi (2-2) (-3)
I have even less of an idea why I’m picking this game, other than I needed a couple of early games and there wasn’t a hell of a lot to choose from.
2:30 pm ET
Navy (2-1) at Air Force (3-1) (-10)
One of my rules is to always pick any game related to the Commander in Chief’s Trophy. I’d say this counts since it matches the science nerds of Air Force against the future Marines and fleet commanders of the Naval Academy.
Even better, it’s run-first football at its finest. This isn’t just great because it’s service academies, these are two of the most well-coached squads in the country.
In honor of Phillips’ father, a retired captain in the Navy, and also because I think they’re the better team (Midshipman, soon to be second lieutenant, Ricky Dobbs is pretty awesome) I’m going with the Goat, though I have always liked Air Force’s style.
3:30 pm ET
(19) Michigan (4-0) at Indiana (3-0) (+10)
So Phillips called me the other day and asked if this game is the biggest IU football game since IU/Purdue in 2007 (the one that sent IU to its first bowl game in 13 years). And you know what? I still can’t decide. I do know this: it’s a big fucking game for Indiana’s football program.
And for Michigan’s too, if they ever want to stop being a Big Ten doormat. Kinda sucks down here, doesn’t it guys?
It also just so happens that Indiana was Michigan’s only conference win in 2009, so there’s a modicum of revenge to be had by the Hoosiers at home in Bloomington.
Ticket sales seem to be crazy for Saturday’s game at the recently U-shaped Memorial Stadium. That means the following expectations from me: 1) the tailgating had better be off the fucking chain all day Saturday. A 3:30 start means fans should be three hours more drunk and disorderly than a noon start, and second only to a 7 pm start in terms of rowdiness. And 2) that this bitch had better sell out or be very close to it.
We’re trying to be legit here, people. I spent my college years at IU watching Gerry DiNardo do whatever it was he was doing there. I refrained from booing Matt LoVecchio longer than others. I talked up Kyle Killion and Will Meyers. I was all about Tracy Porter and Courtney Roby. I dealt with the worst defenses I’ve ever seen at any level. I even took the coaching football class from DiNardo. DON’T TELL ME I HAVEN’T SUFFERED FOR THIS MOMENT, DAMN IT. I NEED THIS WIN.
Er, I mean the program needs this win.
Tennessee (2-2) at (12) Louisiana State (4-0) (-16.5)
Unless they run for 400 yards, there is no way LSU is covering this spread with Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. I know he’s his guy, so Les Miles has to defend him, but there always comes a time when a coach’s “guy” is struggling so badly that it’s hurting the team to keep him in there. The bad news for LSU is Jarrett Lee sucks just as much as Jefferson.
LSU will probably be 5-0 and on track to being one of the worst undefeated teams in SEC history before they finally lose at some point (like next week to Florida). But there is no way Tennessee is bad enough or LSU is good enough for this to be a blowout.
Pick: LSU wins but doesn’t cover
Virginia Tech (2-2) at (23) North Carolina State (4-0) (+4)
If Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech played right now, I would love to see the spread Vegas would come up with. NC State just ruined the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta and the Hokies are a pathetic 2-2. Yet somehow NC State is getting four points at home.
The matchups do favor Virginia Tech, a little. And that’s only if they don’t totally melt down early like against Boise State or suck worse than LSU on offense like they did against James Madison.
Stopping Russell Wilson is actually a simpler task than trying to stop Boise State’s balanced attack or James Madison’s, um, something. It’s not like NC State has a ton of playmakers. You just never know which Virginia Tech is going to show up.
Also, wasn’t Tyrod Taylor supposed to be good by now? Especially after all that drama from the coaches with him and Sean Glennon? Just saying.
Pick: NC State
(11) Wisconsin (4-0) at (24) Michigan State (4-0) (+2)
I don’t think Mark Dantonio in the box is going to help Michigan State much on Saturday. Wisconsin is in full Barry Alvarez juggernaut football mode, and MSU doesn’t have anyone to take over the game the way Wisky does with John Clay. Basically, Wisconsin is what Dantonio wants MSU to be one day. They’re just not there yet.
(21) Texas (3-1) at (8) Oklahoma (4-0) (3.5)
You have to love these two teams backing into this game even though they’re a combined 7-1. One could even say that OU’s close call with Cincinnati last week was worse than Texas’ throttling by UC, LA. If Sam Bradford hadn’t gotten hurt last year, both teams would be in the same position with new starting quarterbacks as well.
Even so, Texas is in a much worse position on both sides of the ball. Garrett Gilbert looks like a first year starter still and has absolutely no support around him to take some of the pressure off. This is Texas. Where the fuck are all the stud playmakers? Is Mack Brown only able to recruit safeties and defensive ends along with the occasional Colt McCoy and Vince Young?
Landry Jones, on the other hand, has a mustache. And DeMarco Murray running the ball. So yeah, I’d say he’s not feeling a ton of pressure at the moment.
6:30 pm ET
Arizona State (2-2) at Oregon State (1-2) (-3.5)
Oregon State had better win one of these games pretty soon or we’re going to start worrying about Boise State’s strength of schedule. Good thing no one has written THAT story yet.
While ASU has one of the better defenses in the Pac-10, and OSU’s quarterback has a cannon arm but probably couldn’t hit the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan with a football from 20 yards, there’s still no reason to believe Oregon State will give this one away.
I expect a fun quasi-shootout that ends close with an OSU win
Pick: Oregon State wins but doesn’t cover
7 pm ET
Georgia (1-3) at Colorado (2-1) (+4.5)
Must feel really good for Colorado to be an underdog at home to a 1-3 team. Hiring Dan Hawkins really turned out well for CU. Or maybe it wasn’t so much him that made Boise State awesome after all.
As for Georgia, Mark Richt is going to stay on the hot seat regardless of whether they win or not. The only real drama is whether he’ll make it to next week’s game if Georgia drops this game in Boulder, and that’s not exactly an impossibility.
Georgia has been truly, truly awful this season on offense, which is to be expected with a very young quarterback, no running game (not a new issue for them), and no A.J. Green. All that and they’re STILL better than LSU.
8 pm ET
Washington (1-2) at (18) Southern California (4-0) (-10)
The bad news for Washington is that Aaron Corp isn’t starting for USC this time around, so chances are we won’t see a repeat of one of the worst performances in the position’s history. I’m actually a little disappointed about that.
The good news for Washington is, well, I’m not sure. You know Lane Kiffin had been absolutely dying to win this game since he got the USC job. This has to be the biggest “Frienemy Bowl” since, well, since last year’s USC/UW game.
I have a feeling USC is saving their full revenge potential for Stanford, but beating a surprisingly vulnerable Washington team in the Coliseum and exorcising some demons in the process will be a nice feeling on the field for the Trojans. They’re still getting their asses kicked by Oregon though.
Notre Dame (1-3) at Boston College (2-1) (+2.5)
Finally, a winnable game for Notre Dame. Wait, you mean it’s going to take more than four games for Brian Kelly to turn around all the damage done by Charlie Weis? No freaking way. Can’t believe Notre Dame’s 9th choice to be their head coach didn’t work out long-term.
That said, if Our Lady drops this one, then Brian Kelly just might find himself on the hot seat already. They might be on the road, but BC isn’t actually any good, so there are no excuses.
Pick: Notre Dame
(7) Florida (4-0) at (1) Alabama (4-0) (-7.5)
If this game were in Gainesville, I’d be inclined to go the other way, but since it’s in Tuscaloosa, there’s just no way Florida is going to win. They don’t do enough on offense or defense to dominate a game the entire time. ‘Bama didn’t look good for the first half of the Arkansas game, but they got it together late and were never THAT far away from winning anyway. There’s just no way to trust this Florida team after their games earlier this year and the total dismantling at Alabama’s hands in the SEC title game last December. Saban might own Meyer. We’ll see after Saturday.
(9) Stanford (4-0) at (4) Oregon (4-0) (-7)
This spread seems high to me. Sure, Oregon’s at home, but Stanford has been equally dominating thus far.
The most fun part of this game is the clash of styles. Both teams have knockout power but get there in totally different ways. Oregon will trick you and run faster than you while Stanford will knock you over and then go for two just to be an asshole. And I actually wondered if Jim Harbaugh’s style would work at Stanford.
Oregon is very, very good this year, but Arizona State showed they can be stopped at least momentarily. Stanford is a wrecking ball that I’m not sure the Ducks have dealt with yet. There’s also something about the Cardinal this year that just seems different, like last year finally freed them of remembering that they’re fucking Stanford. Bo Schembechler would love this team.
8:05 pm ET
(22) Pennsylvania State (3-1) at (17) Iowa (3-1) (-7)
I think this spread is dead on. Penn State is doing remarkably well considering they haven’t been great running the ball and their quarterback is a true freshman. But now they’re on the road against an Iowa team that isn’t great, but is always just good enough to win. I guess that can be Kirk Ferentz’s legacy now that he’s not angling for an NFL job.
The thing is, I KNOW Joe Pa could own Ferentz for four quarters. I’m fucking positive. But then we’re back to PSU being really limited by their frosh quarterback, so I have to bet on a team I swore I’d never take under circumstances like this. My dad will be happy though.